tagNovels and NovellasTime Travellers from the 1960's Pt. 03

Time Travellers from the 1960's Pt. 03


Chapter 5: The Dreams Of Louise

Both of them became fascinated by the broadcasts of modern America, on TV and cable channels, and sometimes the radio, particularly when they were in musical mood. The 'communications media' taught them so much about their new present. Radio did have some very good discussion and debate programmes, and also interesting and varied music. They were both surprised by how much fashionable pop and rock styles had evolved since their day, although both had reservations about some of the new forms, which seemed rather unmusical to their ears.

Both became quite hungry for the knowledge of the new society they were living in and to appreciate the entertainment, which TV provided. As he watched television Ted's estimation of the modern times improved. The programmes were slick, films exciting, the series' intelligent and socially aware. This may not be the dream society they had hoped for but it brought benefits, in the arts, in wit and humour, in social honesty, which he had never contemplated before.

Louise wasn't so sure. Hell, yes it was clever, mind boggling and creative, but it was also crass, depressingly vulgar, and new hypocrisies had evolved. Ted jested that his only disappointment was that he could not watch all the channels at once!

They had had far fewer channels to contend with in their day. Consequently it was not possible to know what everyone else was watching and interesting programmes were often missed. Both of them realised after a while that many channels repeated programmes which had been on before, and that if you missed one programme you were likely to find it again eventually on another channel or the same one after the passage of some time.

Ted did discover two ways of trying to alleviate this problem, which did help to an extent. One - he could 'channel flick'. Belinda had showed him this 'trick'. She said she did it a lot when she had some free time from her work with Future investments, because she didn't have much spare time, and couldn't always make her mind up what to watch. "This way," she said, "you can watch two, three, four, or more programmes at once, keeping up with all of them sufficiently not to lose track of what is going on." Method two - Ted learned he could use the video recorder to video any programmes he particularly wanted to watch while he was out, or merely when he was busy channel flicking. They soon became conversant with the video recorder they had bought from the organisation, and were soon setting complex recording instructions on many of those nights when they were absent, and a few of those when they were at 'home'.

Even so these methods did not enable Ted, in particular, to completely monitor all that he wished because he was faced with a build up of programmes and insufficient time to watch them all, despite his determined efforts in the early days. He began to appreciate the frustrations felt by many Earth people who spent large sums of money to receive all this choice, only to find that because they were 'good citizens' who went out to work they did not actually have sufficient free time to enjoy all the programmes they had paid for. This was an example of the 'consumer society' in which millions of people were being sold many goods and services which they could not actually enjoy because their time and their lives were too short to use them properly. Even so he found that the acquisition of these goods and services remained a key objective of many of them. He learned that it was not the actual use of these which counted, but having the right or opportunity to use them, even if you couldn't. He later learned that many people, particularly at christmas time, were in the habit of buying goods or services that they would play with or use only once, or a few times, before either throwing them away or putting them into the attic or the basement for storage.

Both Ted and Louise found that 21st century broadcast TV channels were full of value and interest. There was also much programming which seemed relatively pointless, but even that was often enjoyable or enlightening. They gave them an image of the 'modern' society which led to high optimism. They wanted more and more 'TV time', and although they thoroughly enjoyed all the 'real time' activities they were experiencing, they wanted more and more 'TV time'.

Soon there was a need for them to find jobs and go to work, like everyone else, in order to pay their way in society, as had been their intention all along. This need to be part of real life also conflicted with their desire to watch TV. Both of them suffered from this problem of fascination with modern culture and entertainment, but they realised it made them lazy and indolent. *

At night Louise escaped to a world which was the one she had intended to reach in the first place. The Seminary was as she had known it in the sixties and seventies, still run by the Future Seminarians without the stink of money and those uniform straightjackets. This time as she awoke she was greeted with a hug and the friendly inefficiency of a fellow believer in the possibilities of the future, by someone who was living in the future they had helped to sculpt. There was more than one. There was a welcoming gathering. There were hugs from all of them, men and women. All of them felt able to hug openly and honestly. The men had no fear that they would be accused of some heinous crime for expressing their honest feelings. None of them would be accused of breaking the rules of their professionalism by allowing the show of natural warmth, and even desire, if that was what they felt inside at that moment. She welcomed the expression of sexual interest from some of the men who were moved to show that most human of interests. And even perhaps from a couple of the women.

She knew where she stood with these people of her past, and of her dreams, unlike those of her waking nightmare of a future. Here she could take refuge in her spoiled hopes. There were no jealousies here, except for small natural instinctive ones, but none which would shake up families in hurt accusation, cause women to chase men for the last dollar in a complex legal system, and teach the people of both sexes that their opposites were untrustworthy betrayers who should be castigated.

And Louise dreamed her dreams.

"Come into the city with us," said one of the Seminarians. He was a young twentysomething with a friendly smile. His hair was long and tawny. The clothes seemed futuristic to Louise, something akin to the Star Trek uniforms so loved by many of her generation, but with a very colourful flower designed coat.

A tall willowy woman wearing a similar coat amplified his offer, "We're going to take in some sunshine, visit some friends and have a drink."

"Why thank you. That's a good offer," said Louise. "Is this part of the welcome for time travellers or do you have no work to perform?"

"It's a good way for you to see the modern city and find out what life is like for us these days, but its not an official thing. You can do whatever you want, but there's a crowd of us going into the city so you might as well come with us if you want to see our city. It'll be interesting for us to see how you react to the changes we've made in recent decades. None of us have work to do this afternoon so we're happy to let you tag along."

They followed the small group outside. Louise liked the young man. He seemed very genuine and she was quite happy to keep him company. The girlfriend, she assumed, seemed a friendly type too. The others, female and male, seemed goodnatured, polite but funloving, true inheritors of the New Seminary tradition.

The buildings of the city she remembered were still there. Virtually intact as far as she could remember; tall skyscrapers in the central financial district. They went among these, walking on pavements well cared for. The bustle of traffic was absent, except for the occasional clanking of trams and the smooth transfer of electric buses, and the low hum of electric wheelchairs as the disabled and elderly made their way. Everyone else in this central part of the city walked. The electrical battery driven vehicles of the suburbs were left behind as laws kept the centre free of congestion.

There were trees and grassy spaces in places where there had not been in her day, certain street corners, the roofs of some buildings.

Their city of dreams was ever sunny, washed with the benevolence of contentment, and personal exploration. Simple computers and robots carried out mundane tasks. Society had not made the mistake here of allowing systems to become ever more complex. The accountants here knocked off at 1 or 2pm. The efforts of the artistic were drawn more heavily towards the many fine arts which were accorded value instead of being boxed into little useless advertising packages.

A tall skyscraper she recognised looked across the bay. The skyscraper above was where she had once worked as a young clerk. She remembered it with a shudder as the long afternoons of soporific inactivity, and the feelings of irretrievable boredom which went with them, such a waste of a young life. But there had been good times here too. The fellow colleagues had been good, friendly and fun loving people when they were allowed to be. The sober signs on the doorway, denoting the many corporations within, were gone. Instead the offices seemed to be used for a variety of other non traditional business purposes and even domestic use. There was a recording studio, a couple of art galleries, and an Art School, which stated on its advertising that its classes were open to all who wished to attend on any given day, for a small basic fee. Many of the offices had been converted to living accommodation, and there was a hotel on some floors. The higher levels with their incredible views of city and bay were given over to restaurants cafes and bars.

"Where are the offices now," she asked. This block seems to be either devoted to leisure activities of whatever sort, or people live in it. In my day there were what I call 'grey' businesses of all sorts housed in it. You know - life assurance brokers, insurance brokers, stockbrokers, attorneys, savings and loan companies, estate agents. What has happened to all those types of business? Where are they now?"

The willowy woman, Becky, said, "We don't bother too much with businesses of that sort these days. As more mature attitudes to life became more fashionable, people began to realise it wasn't very clever to spend your whole life worrying about which investments were going to bring the best returns, checking lots of insurance companies every year to see which was the cheapest, or sueing each other over every little incident. There are better ways to spend our time than struggling over every last dollar.

Many of these firms went out of business."

"That's not strictly true Becky," said Don, the handsome guy. "These functions still exist, nearly all of them, but it's true we don't dedicate so much of our economy to them any more. There are offices around; just not here in the centre of the city."

Chapter 6: Joining the Modern Society: (Returning To Work)

Ted was an electrical engineer back 'home', in the late sixties and early seventies. This should prove useful in this new future world, where technology was so important. They had always expected they would have to work and become a part of the new times. The 'holiday' could not go on forever. He was an intelligent and practical man, but also had a strong interest in most things. He liked literature and music. He had usually read the latest books, modern and up to date, at breakneck speed while on holidays, and he liked to keep up with the latest sounds. He played guitar too, not expertly, but he could knock out some rock'n'roll and play a passable lead blues line. That was his trouble sometimes. He wanted so much to be good at everything, or to have a go at so many things. There was never time for all these hobbies and interests. That was why he hoped and had dared to expect that the future would bring him freedoms and time to become the renaissance man which was his true self.

Ted had worked on some early mainframe computers, and so viewed the computerised society he found in the early 2000's with great interest and excitement. The only drawback was he had some learning to do to see how they worked, and to get up to speed in how computer users were using them in this period. He had envisaged the greater use of computers for many things in the future, not the least being robots. But he had never in his wildest dreams imagined that school kids, ordinary office workers, and just about everybody, would be using them for work, entertainment, leisure and pleasure of so many kinds. Office workers not only used them for calculations and record keeping, but they used them instead of telephones to contact each other. The E mail replaced post for many people. It was faster, more instant. The internet used phone lines but it could transport pictures, images, moving pictures, information and data of all kinds. The storage of 'memory' on the modern computer PCs was incredible, dwarfing even the massive mainframes of the early seventies in a way he had never expected in those days. Not only did office workers use them, but tiny little pre-teen kids, teenagers and their grandparents.

Ted got a job as a troubleshooter, helping to fix ordinary computers when they broke down. His curiosity brought him most of the knowledge he needed. He went on a couple of courses for those who wanted to learn the basics of using computers - for accounting, word processing, E mailing, pictures and graphics. Because he was interested he soon learned. He applied his electrical knowledge and his partial knowledge of early programming until he felt he was quite strong. He was never short of work. He worked for the computer sales department of a major computer producer, and he often did work on the side, privately, when it offered to pay well.

He went into offices and workplaces as part of a team, becoming quite close to his companions.

Louise was quickly disappointed by many of the revelations she discovered about this new future. The commercial basis of the Future Investments organisation, the promised sexuality of the media, which fell far short of the reality; the false image of a leisured and highly cultured modern civilisation when most of it was hot air and hype, and most people led unimaginative and shallow lives pretending to a culture which was, in her opinion very much on the decline. The music was not as good. Female fashions were admittedly sensuous, but males wore a very straightjacketed limited range of clothing and hairstyles. Apparently book sales were still good, but many young people did not seem to read at all, particularly males, and adults were too busy working to read much.

Many people were communicating on the worldwide computer system called the internet, which brought social opportunities, but tended also to create superficial and unreal relationships, if they could be called that. She was not at all convinced that the quality of people's lives was at all improved by the superficial exchanges they had on their computers. Although Ted liked and came to understand the internet, Louise struggled to find any interest in it, preferring her more straightforward older ways of existence.

What reading was done was for escapism and page turning involvement, and not for real thinking. She was partly apalled by the huge readership for crime novels and who-dunnits, and by the viewers who watched the many such programmes incessantly on TV. It was not that she did not appreciate the skills of the writers or the passions of the viewers; it was just that the imaginations of both seemed to be so limited if they were churning out so much of the same kind of formulaic material. What did most of it really have to say. It was mostly enjoyable rehash, but not groundbreaking. It didn't interest her much anyway.

After a couple of weeks of TV watching and tours into their city with Belinda or Carole for guidance, they were asked to meet the Managing Director of Future Investments. Max Farbright, a vigorous intelligent and youthful man, still in his thirties, who was not so much older than Ted and Louise themselves. Louise had seen him at a distance around the Seminary, or Headquarters as the modern staff referred to it, and she had wondered if they would ever be introduced.

They sat in the office waiting room at the appointed time, looking at a jumble of shapes and colours on a tidy picture frame, modern art which suggested nothing at all of any interest to either of them.

The door opened and Director appeared. "Why don't you both come in, Ted and Louise. I see you both made it safely over time! How nice to meet you at last."

"We're pleased to meet you, at last," said Louise, truthfully.

"Please sit down," said the Director, moving towards the business in hand. "Now you know you can't stay here at headquarters for too long. We have limited space and there will be other travellers due to be awoken soon. Your contract states that you are entitled to residence here for one month, which is more than half done. So we will need to set you up with somewhere to live quickly. Of course it is up to you to make arrangements after that. I believe your savings are located, and you have the documents and cards you need to exercise ownership.

"If you would like I can advise a little. If you wish me to help with specific advice I would need to know how much your savings are. Then I can point you in the right direction. For example if your savings are sufficient you may want to buy a place with a loan perhaps if needed. Probably I would advise you to rent first for a time, enabling you to think more carefully about your decisions before committing to buy any property. I imagine you would be well advised to get jobs before you make the big decisions about future investments in property.

"That seems sensible," agreed Ted, reluctant to think about such mundane details right now. "We just need to find somewhere to rent in the near future, somewhere reasonable." Ted was quite sure that once they were living independently the small details and the finances would take care of themselves. The important thing was to get somewhere to live, and to get jobs so they could live as full citizens of this modern society.

"We haven't had time or the inclination to look at property prices yet," said Louise. "Do you happen to know what sort of prices they are?"

"There are plenty of estate agencies you could call in on, or look on line, to get an idea of property prices Louise. Really you need to go to them to find out, it isn't our function."

Louise did not like the way the Director seemed to wash his hands of her question, which she had thought quite harmless. This, she thought, was further evidence of the commercialisation of Future Investments. The Director's obligation was a contractual one, to business clients rather than one of a fellow Seminarian and guide. Belinda and some of the others had been perfectly willing to give support which went beyond the strict contractual obligation, but they were all paid workers, and not real friends. In the New Seminary it had been different. The members had partied and socialised together, exploring life and the future with each other, willing to make their new world together by their open friendship.

Chapter 7: Modern Freedoms: Sexuality, Technology, and Work.

When they had been living in their own future for some months Ted realised it was time to get himself a car. He had a good one back in the sixties and seventies, and he loved good technology, but they had found the value of their savings from 1973, which had been safeguarded both by the new Seminary and more recently Future Investments Incorporated, was not as high as they had hoped. While they had earned interest and dividends, and the values had gone up in monetary terms, yet the value of money had actually fallen. What $10 would once have bought would not buy anything like so much now, although some things like music and TV equipment, and of course computers, had become easily affordable due to technological advance and competition. But really important matters, like property to live in, whether rented or to buy, had become very expensive.

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